Explaining Irreconcilable Worldviews Between Pro-Gun and Anti-Gun Activists

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This came across my desk and it is a good explanation of why the anti-gun people are hampered by their own collectivist ideology. By W.F.

“The main reason pro-gun people and anti-gun people can’t talk to each other is that their respective rhetorics are based on two irreconcilable worldviews. The anti-gun people are essentially collectivist; the pro-gun people are essentially individualist.

Lately, for example, I’ve been hearing arguments from the anti-gun people about how “arming teachers” is a bad idea. The image they’re evoking with this language is that of a group of teachers lining up to receive their mandatory government-issued firearm for use in defending their classrooms. Most proposals I’ve seen, however, aren’t for arming teachers en masse. They are for allowing individual teachers who are already permitted to carry guns to do so on school property. The anti-gun people use collectivist language about “arming” a group of people, while the pro-gun people use individualist language about allowing individuals to make a choice about whether to carry a gun.

Similarly, anti-gun people often say things like “More guns are not the solution.” The image they are evoking is that of a basically homogeneous group of people, some percentage of which are causing problems for the group with their guns. To the collectivist mind, the proposed solution–increasing the percentage of gun ownership within the group–is absurd. But of course arbitrarily increasing the percentage of guns is not a solution anyone is proposing. The solution the pro-gun people are proposing is to remove limitations on the law-abiding members of the group that put them at a disadvantage when dealing with the non-law abiding members.

I often see anti-gun people make statements like “Children dying isn’t worth your right to have an AR-15.” To a collectivist, this statement makes perfect sense: after all, there’s no doubt that as a group, we’d be better off if there were no AR-15s. To an individualist, though, this statement is at best nonsensical and at worst insulting. To an individualist, the statement translates to “You personally having an AR-15 increases the chances of children dying.” And it doesn’t help when the anti-gun people go the next logical step and call NRA members “murderers” for something that none of their individual members have done.

This is also how collectivists are able to justify a ban on guns which would have to enforced by people with guns. To the collectivist, “police” are a different group than “civilians,” and it’s assumed that when you are talking about gun regulations, you are talking about regulations for civilians. For individualists, this distinction reeks of hypocrisy, because they see both the police and civilians as individual members of society, to whom the same laws should apply.

The problem of incompatible worldviews is complicated by the fact that in America, overt collectivism is still frowned on to some degree. Americans of all political stripes like to think we are proponents of individual freedom. Many collectivists in the U.S. are so inculcated in individualist language that they don’t even know they are collectivists (these are the people who resort to supporting their arguments with vague pronouncements about “the greater good,” “social welfare,” “the social contract,” etc.) Thus, collectivists tend (intentionally or unintentionally) to cloak their language in individualist rhetoric about “rights.” For example, “Doesn’t my child have a right to go to school without being shot?”

The problem with this question is that while it’s ostensibly about individual rights, it’s really a way of surreptitiously shifting the conversation onto collectivist grounds. It’s a way of saying that my fear (rational or not) outweighs your so-called rights. And once you accept that premise, you’re stuck in the collectivist mindset. Individual rights are now just an obstacle in the way of creating a perfectly just, peaceful society where no one is ever shot (or harmed in any other way, presumably).

You’ve probably figured out by now which of these two camps I’m in. I don’t pretend to be objective, but I have some pretty good reasons for preferring the individualist mindset to the collectivist. For one thing, as I’ve already mentioned, it’s telling that the collectivists have to employ misdirection and rhetoric borrowed from individualism in order to make their point. Most Americans still know on some level that the greatness of our country was its emphasis on individual rights over collective concerns, so the collectivists have to rely on deception to win them over.

Secondly, in my experience individualists have a pretty good understanding of the collectivist worldview. It isn’t difficult for most pro-gun people to perform a convincing imitation of the anti-gun argument. Anti-gun people, on the other hand, seem genuinely incapable of understanding pro-gun arguments, and end up arguing against strawmen tainted by their own collectivist ideology. This leads me to believe that collectivism is an intellectual crutch for those who can’t make sense of individualism.

But the main problem with collectivism as it relates to gun control and any other problem is that in the end, people *are* individuals. If you break a gun law, you, an individual, go to prison. If a burglar breaks into your house, you, an individual, are victimized. If you shoot a person, you, an individual, are responsible. You can talk about “society” having a problem with “gun violence,” but in the end what you are talking about is some individuals being hurt by other individuals with guns.

Collectivist language can be useful, but the collectivist worldview is at best an approximation and at worst a crutch for bigots and the intellectually lazy. Laws are applied to individual people, and I believe they should be passed with that in mind. You don’t have to believe that, but if you are in favor of gun control, you should at least make an effort to understand why many people do.”

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